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NATIONAL PERILS AND OPPORTUNITIES.
WEDNESDAY, DEC. 7, 1887.
The Conference met in the Congregational Church, corner of Tenth and G streets, and was organized at 9:40 A, M., with Mr. William E. Dodge, President of the Evangelical Alliance, occupying the chair.
The session was opened by singing the hymn, “ Come, Gracious Spirit, Heavenly Dove," after which a selection of Scripture, consisting of the Second Chapter of the Acts, 'was read by Bishop Harris, of Michigan. Rev. Arthur T. Pierson, D. D., of Philadelphia, then led in prayer, the Conference first rising and uniting with him in the Lord's Prayer, as a visible expression of their unity.
W. E, DODGE, President. It is my duty, as representing the Evangelical Alliance for the United States, to call this Conference to order, and to express to the citizens of Washington, and their local Committee, our sincere appreciation of their great kindness and gracious hospitality in inviting us to their beautiful city, and in arranging the details which minister to our comfort and convenience.
As the capital of the Nation, any true word spoken here, or any impulse for good, will be felt through the whole land, and this tends to deepen the responsibility and to widen the possible influence of our gathering.
It is proper I should state briefly the reasons which have led to this Conference, and the results which are hoped for.
Acting on what they believe to be a leading purpose of the organization of the Alliance, the Board of Managers have for a long time carefully studied the social and economic changes which so largely affect the condition of the country.
They have secured a General Secretary who has the confidence and respect of all the churches; who has been a thoughtful student and observer, and, by his pen and on the platform, has done large service in awakening the attention of Christians to their increasing responsibilities.
Their aim has been to gather information as to all forms of religious work, and to the needs of all sections of the country. They have endeavored to avoid all loose statements and mere sentiment, and have sought for real facts. Their desire has been to know whether the Christian efforts and organizations as now existing, either denominational or general, are sufficient to meet growing needs, and to cover the whole ground.
The result of this investigation has been most encouraging, as showing a vital Christian life and a growing interest in all Christian duties. It has developed great reserved force and unused resources in the Church, and a power which, if concentrated and developed, might easily change the whole character of the country, and assure its future.
It has shown a very large proportion of the population, the wealth and intelligence of the land, to be in nominal membership of Evangelical churches; a power so great as to be able to control and direct the best thought of the people, and to guide all our institutions; a power which, is wisely directed, could bring to bear upon all social questions and all disturbing elements the influence of the simple teachings of Christ, which we believe contain the solvent for all perils and dangers, and which can alone bring about a real brotherhood and mutual confidence between all classes and conditions of people.
But all thoughtful men will agree that at present the largest portion of our Christian resources are unused; that many efforts are misdirected; that a want of organization and mutual understanding causes much waste of effort and money; that many modes of work overlap each other; that large spaces are untouched.
Denominational agencies are highly organized, but work largely without reference to each other, and sometimes appear almost to care more for the furtherance of special views than for the building up of the whole Church of Christ.
Our voluntary system, with its splendid results and adaptation to many peculiarities of our times, has its grave defects, especially in large cities, and needs careful study and re-arrangement. In all our churches the supply of ministers is sadly behind the needs, especially of those who have fitness and consecration for the hard places, and for sympathetic contact with working people,
Our population is growing with startling rapidity. New and wonderful means of transportation are opening the whole land at once to settlement. New communities are springing up by magic, and their moral and religious characters are being established as rapidly.
Immigrants are pouring into the country in increasing volume. These new additions to our population are not absorbed and Americanized as formerly, and are settling in masses in our large cities and new states-retaining language, habits and traditions foreign to our ideas, and rapidly changing the character of our people.
The power of the saloons is highly organized, and, notwithstanding all the grand work done for the cause of temperance, claims to control legislatures and laws. Secular unions and infidel clubs exist all through the country, and exert a baneful influence, especially upon our foreign population.
The Roman Church embraces a large portion of our people; and while we admire and respect its religious devotion and admirable charities, and have nothing but kindness and regard for its individual members, it still holds its first allegiance to a foreign power, which claims the absolute right to control all consciences and all peoples, and is, therefore, a dangerous menace to the Republic.
Our cities are growing in size and in influence, beyond our conception. They are becoming great manufacturing centres, drawing population from all sections of the interior of our country, and from all the world. Their condition is not fully understood by Christian people, and the provision for their religious care is sadly inadequate.
The growing disregard of the proper use of the American Sunday, the loose opinions as to family ties, the increased licentiousness, the materialism of the age, the absorption in money